Great Gatsby Values in 1920 America Were Term Paper
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Values in 1920 America were changing rapidly from the Victorian attitudes that preceded them, and the novel "The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald clearly epitomizes these changing values. In business and in pleasure, the people Gatsby associates with are shallow, materialistic, nihilistic, and disloyal. These people lived hard, played hard, and often died young, as Myrtle and Gatsby indicate. They were celebrating the end of World War I and a new beginning for America, when it was prosperous and excessive. These new young Americans frightened their elders because they danced risque dances like the Charleston, smoked, drank, and spent large amounts of cash as often as they could. There were increasingly interested in material possession, including the ostentatious mansions of East and West Egg. Continually throughout the novel, Fitzgerald portrays them as shallow, uncaring, selfish, and incapable of real friendships and relationships. They are mostly interested in themselves and their insatiable appetite for excess.
Perhaps the worst part of their selfish lifestyle was their carelessness. Myrtle dies because of careless and reckless driving, and many of the other activities in the novel show the characters' lack of respect for those around them. They are careless because they can be, and because they do not recognize there can be dire consequences to their careless actions. These people are also extremely disloyal and hurtful to one another. Daisy quickly runs to Gatsby when she finds Tom is having an affair, and Tom flaunts his relationship with Myrtle. These people seem incapable of fidelity or loyalty, and it hurts those around them, although that does not seem to enter into their thoughts.
Were these the values of the entire American culture at the time? Of course not. Young, rich, and successful people
seemed to typify these values, and it was partly their reaction to World War I that created this age of excess. These young people had seen and outlived a terrible war. Afterward, the country became extremely successful. Some of these young people had seen the very worst of life, and now they were ready to throw off the memories to experience the very best of life. They were excessive because they knew life could end in an instant, and yet, in a paradox, they did not care. Fitzgerald portrays them as out of control in their lives. They speed through life, hoping to experience every minute of it, and yet they do not experience any of it when they are drunk or even worse, bored. These are shallow, spoiled people, many of whom do not have to work for a living. They are consumed with their own views of life, with their own money, and with their own social status. That they mix with Gatsby and his "new money" friends at all is amazing, but it is clear they keep them at arm's length, and never blur the lines between East Egg and West Egg. They may go "slumming," but they never return the favor. These values do not represent the core values of America, but they certainly represent a part of America present even today. Consumerism did not die with the 1920s, it is alive and well in the new millennium. These people of the 1920s may have seemed aberrant at the time; today they just seem old-fashioned, self-impressed, and sad. However, people like them still exist in America today, and so, the values of the 1920s continue to eat away at the fabric of American…
Sources Used in Documents:
Browne, Karyn Gullen, et al., eds. Gatsby. New York: Chelsea House, 1991.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "The Great Gatsby." OnlineLiterature.com. 2004. 24 June 2004. http://www.online-literature.com/fitzgerald/greatgatsby/
Gale, Robert L. An F. Scott Fitzgerald Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Gross, Dalton, and Maryjean Gross. Understanding the Great Gatsby A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.
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